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From Heaven descended to the low-roofed house
To whom our Saviour sagely thus replied:
Fortune and Fate, as one regardless quite
Of mortal things. Who therefore seeks in these
True wisdom, finds her not, or by delusion,
Far worse, her false resemblance only meets,
An empty cloud. However, many hooks,
Wise men have said, are wearisome: who reads
Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
A spirit and judgment equal or superior
(And what he brings, what needs he elsewhere seek ?),
Uncertain and unsettled still remains,
Deep versed in books and shallow in himself,
Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys,
And trifles for choice matters, worth a sponge;
As children gathering pebbles on the shore.
Or if I would delight my private hours
With music or with poem, where so soon
As in our native language can I find
That solace? All our law and story strewed
With hymns, our psalms with artful terms inscribed,
Our Hebrew songs and harps in Babylon,
That pleased so well our victors' ear, declare
That rather Greece from us these arts derived
111 imitated, while they loudest sing
The vices of their deities, and their own
In fable, hymn, or song, so personating
Their gods ridiculous, and themselves past shame.
Remove their swelling epithets, thick laid
As varnish on a harlot's cheek, the rest,
Thin sown with aught of profit or delight,
Will far be found unworthy to compare
With Sion's songs, to all true tastes excelling,
Where God is praised aright, and god-like men,
The Holiest of Holies, and his saints;
Such are from God inspired, not such from thee,
Unless where moral virtue is expressed
By light of nature not in all quite lost.
Their orators thou then extoll'st, as those
The top of eloquence; statists2 indeed,
And lovers of their country, as may seem;
1 This was the system in vogue at that time. It was established and supported with vast erudition by Bochart, and carried to an extravagant and even ridiculous length by Huetius and Gale.—Warburton.
2 Statesmen, a word used by Shakspeare.
But herein to our prophets far beneath,
As men divinely taught, and better teaching
The solid rules of civil government,
In their majestic, unaffected style,
Than all the oratory of Greece and Rome.
In them is plainest taught, and easiest learnt,
What makes a nation happy, and keeps it so,
What ruins kingdoms, and lays cities flat;
These only with our law best form a king."
So spake the Son of God: but Satan now
"Since neither wealth, nor honour, arms nor arts,
1 A satire on Cardan, who, with the boldness and impiety of an atheist and a madman, both of which he was, cast the nativity of Jesus Christ, and found by the great and illustrious concourse of stars at his birth, that he must needs have the fortune which befell him, and become the author of a religion, which should spread itself far and near for many ages.—Newton.
So saying he took (for still he knew his power Not yet expired), and to the wilderness Brought back the Son of God, and left him there, Feigning to disappear. Darkness now rose, As daylight sunk, and brought in louring night, Her shadowy offspring, unsubstantial both, Privation mere of light and absent day. Our Saviour meek, and with untroubled mind After his airy jaunt, though hurried sore, Hungry and cold, betook him to his rest, Wherever, under some concourse of shades, Whose branching arms, thick intertwined, might shield From dews and damps of night his sheltered head, But sheltered slept in vain, for at his head The tempter watched, and soon with ugly dreams Disturbed his sleep; and either tropic now 'Gan thunder, and both ends of Heaven, the clouds From many a horrid rift abortive poured Fierce rain with lightning mixed, water with fire In ruin reconciled: nor slept the winds Within their stony caves, hut rushed abroad • From the four hinges of the world, and fell On the vexed wilderness, whose tallest pines, Though rooted deep as high, and sturdiest oaks Bowed their stiff necks, loaden with stormy blasts, Or torn up sheer: ill wast thou shrouded then, O patient Son of God, yet only stood'st Unshaken; nor yet stayed the terror there, Infernal ghosts, and hellish furies, round Environed thee, some howled, some yelled, some shrieked, Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou Sat'st unappalled in calm and sinless peace. Thus passed the night so foul, till morning fair Came forth with pilgrim steps in amice1 gray, Who with her radiant finger stilled the roar Of thunder, chased the clouds, and laid the winds And grisly spectres, which the fiend had raised To tempt the Son of God with terrors dire. And now the sun, with more effectual beams, Had cheered the face of earth, and dried the wet From drooping plant, or dropping tree; the birds, Who all things now behold2 more fresh and green, After a night of storm so ruinous.
1 Clothing, from amicis. 2 Probaoly " beheld."
Cleared up their choicest notes in hush and spray
"Fair morning yet betides thee, Son of God,
1 This sentence is, as Newton observes, "dark and perplexed, having no proper exit."